Tag Archives: blue hen restaurant

Four for Four

Birthdays come but once a year. And it’s a damn good thing. Any more, and parents would be dropping like flies.

Or I would, anyway. MJ’s party was four days ago now, and I’m only just feeling human again. As for my pocketbook, well, it may need a bit more time to recover. Because you know what? It turns out that even a super casual, bagels-in-the-park,  cupcakes from Vons, no favor bags birthday party can be extraordinarily expensive. It might’ve been cheaper to rent a yacht. Who knew?

But it was worth it. I think. Myra-Jean seemed to enjoy it. Mostly.  I mean, let’s be honest–by the end of such a party pretty much any preschooler is in a stage five meltdown. What with the sugar, the attention, the pinata, the grownups goosing their cheeks–it’s enough to make even the most phlegmatic of four-year-olds blow a gasket. MJ, being no exception to this rule, spent the last half-hour of the party refusing to acknowledge departing guests and screaming “I just want to open my presents!!” I thought we were going to have to sedate her. Good times.

But then it was over–the invitees headed home, the cups and plates cleaned up, the smashed Jupiter pinata stuffed in the trash, the remaining cupcakes tossed. We headed up the hill to our house and ate takeout lunch with our family. Everyone was starved. One thing you forget to do at these things is eat.

As for MJ, she was all over the place. One minute she played with a new toy, the next she was sobbing over getting served the “wrong kind of chicken.” She said she’d enjoyed the party, but it was hard to tell. She was tired. She was mean. She was edgy. And this edginess lasted for the next three days.

It only seemed to lift yesterday–the actual day of her birthday. I’d had to work–a fact deemed unforgivable by my daughter–and it looked like the day could be a total debacle. Myra-Jean was furious when I left.

“You may never go!” she screamed. “Ever!”

The four birthday-themed postcards I’d left her notwithstanding, I felt like the worst parent alive.

But as the day went on, I heard that she cheered up. School was fun. The weather a bit cooler. In the afternoon she did some gardening with her father.

And then I was able to get off early to meet them for dinner! At our favorite restaurant!  We ate pho and crayoned pictures of Walter and Mina on small white pieces of scrap paper. MJ chewed french fries with fish sauce and seemed ecstatic to be up past her bedtime. After dinner, we went to ice cream; when we were done eating it I watched, grinning stupidly, as my husband and daughter danced to “American Pie” in the middle of the empty parlor’s floor.

There, in that moment, I found the joy of her fourth birthday. And, judging by their faces, I’d have to say Mike and MJ did as well. No pinatas, no space decorations, no craft table, no hats. Just a quiet dinner, a sweet dessert, and the hard slate floor of an empty shop.

Perhaps next year we’ll just skip straight to that.

Waste, In The Wrong Places

It has been my experience that, when I am struggling with something I can’t control — something, say, like a severely constipated daughter — I will often turn for solace to some little aspect of life that can be controlled. I search for something, anything, that will deliver immediate satisfaction, does respond to my commands, doesn’t stymie me at every turn.

Yesterday that something was the ironing basket.

After watching, for months, as the heap of wrinkled shirts in there went from large, to massive, to mountainous, I finally snapped. I know, I had promised Mike repeatedly I would leave it. He had said he would get to it all someday. He is a man of his word. But he is absurdly busy. Yesterday, with the stress of MJ’s condition weighing heavily upon me, I felt an overpowering need to see something resolved. God knows there was nothing happening in the potty area. Maybe I could make up for it in the laundry room.

So I grabbed some shirts. Not all of them. About half. Nineteen, to be exact. I decided that I would scour Eagle Rock for the cheapest place to launder them. And I would get it done. What else did I have to do, other than wait around to see if my daughter’s colon would explode? Mike would understand. Heck, he might even be relieved. At least someone would.

We had to go to Trader Joe’s anyway, so I started my quest at the dry cleaners right next door.

“How much,” I inquired of the moon-faced man behind the counter, “do you charge to launder a dress shirt?”

He informed me it was $2.20. Hmm. I couldn’t remember how much we used to pay in the old days, (when we both had incomes, that is), but I felt sure it wasn’t that much.

I thanked him. We left.

By the time we finished at Trader Joe’s, I’d put a small fortune on my debit card, (a hundred and sixty bucks, plus fifty back in cash), filled four shopping bags, and lugged a huge bag of dogfood across the parking lot. I was ready to head home. I strapped MJ — lost in her roll of stickers — into her car seat. Then — doh! — I remembered the dry-cleaning mission. It still had to be completed. I really didn’t feel like scouring Eagle Rock anymore. But I knew of one place…

I decided to take MJ to lunch at Blue Hen, our favorite local restaurant. There was a dry cleaners next door.  This one was in a strip mall. It’d be cheaper for sure.

We drove there and parked. I decided to take care of business first. Telling MJ we would eat in a moment, I dragged the huge bag of shirts with us as we headed for the dry cleaners. Oh, I could’ve left the shirts in the car until I learned the price. But I knew it was going to work out. I could feel it. No need to make two trips.

When we got inside a friendly-looking woman in her seventies asked how she could assist us. I showed her the stuffed bag and asked how much to launder each shirt. In a clipped but melodic accent she replied:


The bag sagged. So did I. I did the math quickly and realized I’d be spending about six dollars more to clean the shirts here.

On the other hand? I was spent. The sun was blistering. MJ was kicking at the counter, chanting “chicken noodles chicken noodles chicken noodles!” Thank God she even had an appetite. With the backup she had downstairs I was astonished she could eat at all. I should probably strike while the iron was hot — as it were — and get her fed.

So I put the shirts on the counter.

The proprietress — Lisa — counted them and told me it would be $47.50. Sheesh! Mike wasn’t so wrong after all. This was going to put us in the poorhouse!  If I ever did it again. Which I wouldn’t. At least not until MJ was in college.

Lisa interruped my thoughts. “I take cash or check only. You pay now if you like.”

Oh I liked. No point putting off ’til tomorrow what will suck even more then. Out came the crisp new bills from Trader Joes. Two twenties and a ten.

Lisa slid my change — what little there was of it — back to me, deftly avoiding MJ’s grabbing hand.

“Saturday OK?” she asked, an almost sympathetic smile on her face.

I told her it was fine. Waiting is my life. I live to wait! If she needed me I’d be in the bathroom with my daughter, reading “Blueberries For Sal.”

We left, and trudged down the bright pavement to the resteraunt. There, I ordered MJ her usual: baby pho with chicken. But me? I would get something small. I was already six dollars in the hole.

Plus, I’m pooping just fine.